Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 304–321 | Cite as

How do we select multiple features? Transient costs for selecting two colors rather than one, persistent costs for color–location conjunctions

  • Shih-Yu LoEmail author
  • Alex O. Holcombe


In a previous study Lo, Howard, & Holcombe (Vision Research 63:2033, 2012), selecting two colors did not induce a performance cost, relative to selecting one color. For example, requiring possible report of both a green and a red target did not yield a worse performance than when both targets were green. Yet a cost of selecting multiple colors was observed when selection needed be contingent on both color and location. When selecting a red target to the left and a green target to the right, superimposing a green distractor to the left and a red distractor to the right impeded performance. Possibly, participants cannot confine attention to a color at a particular location. As a result, distractors that share the target colors disrupt attentional selection of the targets. The attempt to select the targets must then be repeated, which increases the likelihood that the trial terminates when selection is not effective, even for long trials. Consistent with this, here we find a persistent cost of selecting two colors when the conjunction of color and location is needed, but the cost is confined to short exposure durations when the observer just has to monitor red and green stimuli without the need to use the location information. These results suggest that selecting two colors is time-consuming but effective, whereas selection of simultaneous conjunctions is never entirely successful.


Feature-based attention Perceptual lag Multiple-feature cost Resource theory Mixture model 



This research was funded by ARC Discovery Project 110100432 to A.O.H. An ARC Future Fellowship also supports A.O.H. We also thank Iain Brew from Macquarie University for assistance in generating the animations for this article.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of SydneyAustralia

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